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Publication numberUS6001540 A
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 09/089,556
Publication dateDec 14, 1999
Filing dateJun 3, 1998
Priority dateJun 3, 1998
Fee statusPaid
Publication number089556, 09089556, US 6001540 A, US 6001540A, US-A-6001540, US6001540 A, US6001540A
InventorsJi-Chung Huang, Yea-Dean Sheu, Chung-En Hsu, Han-Liang Tseng
Original AssigneeTaiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Multilayer; silica on substrate, polysilicon, silicon nitride; patterning and etching
US 6001540 A
Abstract
A process is described for forming a microlens, either directly on a substrate or as part of a process to manufacture an optical imaging array. The process starts with the deposition of a layer of silicon oxide over the substrate, said layer being the determinant of the lens to substrate distance. This is followed by layers of polysilicon and silicon nitride. The latter is patterned to form a mask which protects the poly, except for a small circular opening, during its oxidation (under the same conditions as used for LOCOS). The oxide body that is formed is lens shaped, extending above the poly surface by about the same amount as below it, and just contacting the oxide layer. After the silicon nitride and all poly have been removed, the result is a biconvex microlens. In a second embodiment, a coating of SOG is provided that has a thickness equal to half the microlens thickness, thereby converting the latter to a plano-convex lens.
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Claims(20)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of forming a microlens, comprising:
providing a substrate;
depositing a layer of silicon oxide onto said substrate;
depositing a layer of polysilicon onto said layer of silicon oxide;
depositing a layer of silicon nitride onto said layer of polysilicon;
patterning and etching the silicon nitride layer to form therein a circular opening;
oxidizing the polysilicon that is not covered by silicon nitride whereby a lenticular body of silicon oxide, having a thickness sufficient to bring said lenticular body into contact with said silicon oxide layer, is formed;
removing the silicon nitride;
using a first etching procedure, removing all polysilicon that does not underlie the lenticular body; and
using a second etching procedure, removing all remaining polysilicon, thereby forming a microlens.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein the layer of silicon oxide is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 10 microns, thereby controlling how far the microlens is from the substrate.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein the layer of polysilicon is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 0.5 microns.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of oxidizing the polysilicon further comprises heating at about one atmosphere for between about 2-4 hours at a temperature between about 850 and 950 C.
5. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
coating the layer of silicon oxide with a layer of spin on glass to a thickness equal to half said lenticular body's thickness; and
drying and firing the spin on glass.
6. A process for manufacturing a biconvex microlens, comprising:
providing a partially completed imaging array including a vertical charge coupled device, protected by a light shield, and a photodiode, on a silicon substrate, embedded within a planarized ILD layer;
depositing a first layer of silicon oxide onto said ILD layer;
depositing a layer of polysilicon onto said first layer of silicon oxide;
depositing a layer of silicon nitride onto said layer of polysilicon;
patterning and etching the silicon nitride layer to form therein a circular opening located directly above the photodiode;
oxidizing the polysilicon that is not covered by silicon nitride whereby a lenticular body of silicon oxide, having a thickness sufficient to bring said lenticular body into contact with said first silicon oxide layer, is formed;
removing the silicon nitride;
using a first etching procedure, removing all polysilicon that does not underlie the lenticular body; and
using a second etching procedure, removing all remaining polysilicon, thereby forming a biconvex microlens.
7. The process of claim 6 wherein the first layer of silicon oxide is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 10 microns, thereby controlling how far the biconvex microlens is from the photodiode.
8. The process of claim 6 wherein the layer of polysilicon is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 0.5 microns.
9. The process of claim 6 wherein the step of oxidizing the polysilicon further comprises heating at about one atmosphere for between about 2-4 hours at a temperature between about 850 and 950 C.
10. The process of claim 6 wherein said first etching procedure further comprises using a dry etch of a mixture of chlorine and hydrogen bromide, at a power level between about 270 and 325 watts, at a pressure between about 300 and 400 mtorr, for between about 25 to 35 seconds.
11. The process of claim 6 wherein said second etching procedure further comprises using a wet etch composed of hydrogen fluoride:nitric acid:water in proportions 1:50:20, respectively, followed by a rinse in deionized water.
12. The process of claim 6 wherein the circular opening has a diameter that is between about 0.2 and 1 microns.
13. The process of claim 6 wherein the light shield is tungsten silicide.
14. A process for manufacturing a plano-convex microlens, comprising:
providing a partially completed imaging array including a vertical charge coupled device, protected by a light shield, and a photodiode, on a silicon substrate, embedded within a planarized ILD layer;
depositing a first layer of silicon oxide onto said ILD layer;
depositing a layer of polysilicon onto said first layer of silicon oxide;
depositing a layer of silicon nitride onto said layer of polysilicon;
patterning and etching the silicon nitride layer to form therein a circular opening located directly above the photodiode;
oxidizing the polysilicon that is not covered by silicon nitride whereby a lenticular body of silicon oxide, having a thickness sufficient to bring said lenticular body into contact with said first silicon oxide layer, is formed;
removing the silicon nitride;
using a first etching procedure, removing all polysilicon that does not underlie the lenticular body;
using a second etching procedure, removing all remaining polysilicon;
coating the first layer of silicon oxide with a layer of spin on glass to a thickness equal to half said lenticular body's thickness; and
drying and firing the spin on glass, thereby forming a plano-convex microlens.
15. The process of claim 14 wherein the first layer of silicon oxide is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 10 microns, thereby controlling how far the plano-convex microlens is from the photodiode.
16. The process of claim 14 wherein the layer of polysilicon is deposited to a thickness between about 0.1 and 0.5 microns.
17. The process of claim 14 wherein the step of oxidizing the polysilicon further comprises heating at about one atmosphere for between about 2-4 hours at a temperature between about 850 and 950 C.
18. The process of claim 14 wherein the circular opening has a diameter that is between about 0.2 and 1 microns.
19. The process of claim 14 wherein the first layer of silicon oxide and said spin on glass have refractive indices that are within about 90% of one another.
20. The process of claim 19 wherein the spin on glass is silicate based or siloxane based.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to the general field of CCD based imaging arrays with particular reference to their use of microlenses.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Microlenses are in widespread use in conjunction with light imaging arrays, particularly when these utilize photodiodes operating together with charge coupled devices (CCDs). The purpose of the microlens is to focus a pixel's worth of light onto the photodiode, thereby increasing the sensitivity of the display.

The easiest, and most commonly used, way to form a microlens has been to first form a disk of resin (which in practice is also a photoresist) and then to heat it until it softens, allowing surface tension forces to give it a hemisperical shape which approximates a plano-convex lens.

This process, while easy to use, is often difficult to control, making the future optical behavior of the microlens difficult to predict. Additionally, once the microlens has been formed the array must not be subjected to temperatures in excess of about 200 C. or the microlens will melt. Such temperatures could be of external origin or they could be the result of lens heating. Finally, the optical transparency of photoresist tends to decrease over time, particularly when it is repeatedly exposed to light. Aside from decreasing the overall sensitivity of the array, this also serves to exacerbate the lens heating problem mentioned above.

The present invention provides a method of fabricating a microlens from silicon oxide, which material is much more robust than photoresist with respect to both temperature and light. In the course of searching for prior art we did not find that this method has been previously described. The following references were, however, found to be of interest:

Use of photoresist to form microlenses is discussed in detail by Sakakibara et al. in `A 1" format 1.5M pixel IT-CCD image sensor for a HDTV camera system` published in the IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics vol. 37 no. 3 August 1991, pp. 487-493. A similar discussion may be found in `Submicron spaced lens array process technology for a high photosensitivity CCD image sensor` by Sano et al. in IEDM 1990 pp. 283-286.

Furukawa et al. discuss the design of microlenses and the associated system in `A 1/3 inch 380K pixel IT-CCD image sensor` in the IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics vol. 38 no. 3 August 1992, pp. 595-600. The design of microlenses is also discussed by Deguchi et al. in `Microlens design using simulation program for CCD image sensor` in IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics vol. 38 no. 3 August 1992 pp. 583-589.

A non photoresist microlens, formed by reflowing a disk of boro-phosphosilicate glass (BPSG) at high temperature is described by Tsukamato et al. in `High sensitivity pixel technology for a 1/4 inch PAL 430K pixel IT-CCD` published in the 1996 Custom IC Conference, pp. 39-42.

We note here that all the above references describe processes that result in plano-convex lenses. Additionally, these processes do not, in general, provide for control of the distance between the microlens and the photodiode as an independent variable. Rather, this distance is determined by other parameters of the total process which must be compromised if said distance needs to be modified.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It has been an object of the present invention to provide a process for manufacturing a microlens that is stable at high temperature and/or after extensive exposure to light.

Another object of the invention has been that, at user's option, said process provide either a biconvex or a plano-convex microlens.

A still further object has been that the distance between the microlens and the substrate (or a point therein) be independently adjustable.

Yet another object has been that said process be fully compatible with the manufacture of optical imaging systems, particularly CCD based imaging systems.

These objects have been achieved by depositing a layer of silicon oxide over the substrate, said layer being the determinant of the lens to substrate distance. This is followed by layers of polysilicon and silicon nitride. The latter is patterned to form a mask which protects the poly, except for a small circular opening, during the oxidation of the poly (using the same parameters as in LOCOS). The oxide body that is formed is lens shaped, extending above the poly surface by about the same amount as below it, and just touching the oxide layer. After the silicon nitride and all poly have been removed, the result is a biconvex microlens. In a second embodiment, a coating of SOG is provided that has a thickness equal to half the microlens thickness, thereby converting the latter to a plano-convex lens.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic cross-section showing a partially completed imaging array, including a vertical charge coupled device, protected by a light shield, and a photodiode, on a silicon substrate, embedded within a planarized ILD layer, coated with layers of silicon oxide, polysilicon, and silicon nitride.

FIG. 2 illustrates the use of the silicon nitride layer as a mask during oxidation.

FIG. 3 illustrates the appearance of the unprotected portion of the polysilicon layer at the conclusion of oxidation.

FIG. 4 shows the structure after all polysilicon, except a portion immediately beneath the microlens, has been removed.

FIG. 5 shows how the structure, after all polysilicon has been removed, is a biconvex microlens.

FIG. 6 illustrates how a microlens, formed according to the process of the present invention, focusses light rays.

FIG. 7 shows a second embodiment wherein the structure becomes a plano-convex microlens.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The process of the present invention, to be described below, is presented in the context of a CCD based imaging array because this is where most widespread application of the invention is anticipated. The process is, however, quite general in nature and could be used to form a microlens on any substrate.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a schematic cross-section is shown of a partially completed integrated circuit intended for use in an imaging array. Photodiode 2 is seen embedded in silicon substrate 1. On either side of it are vertical CCDs 3 which are covered by light shields 4. The latter are formed from tungsten silicide, but other similar materials could also have been used. Their thickness is between about 500 and 2,000 Angstroms. These parts have been covered by a dielectric layer of BPTEOS or BPSG which serves as an Inter Level Dielectric (ILD) 6 for the IC. As shown, the top surface of the ILD has been planarized.

The process of the present invention begins with the deposition of silicon oxide layer 7, onto the top surface of ILD layer 6, to a thickness between about 0.1 and 10 microns. The actual thickness value used may vary on a case by case basis since it will determine how far the microlens is from the photodiode. This is an important feature of the present invention since, as already mentioned, many processes in current use do not allow this quantity to be independently controlled.

The next step is the deposition of polysilicon layer 8 onto the top surface of oxide layer 7. Layer 8 has a thickness between about 0.1 and 0.5 microns. The thickness of polysilicon used will determine the thickness of the microlens as well as its focal length (thinner lenses made by this process tending to have greater focal lengths.

The last step illustrated in FIG. 1 is silicon nitride layer 9 which has been deposited onto the top surface of layer 8 to a thickness between about 0.1 and 0.3 microns.

Referring now to FIG. 2, silicon nitride layer 9 has been patterned and etched (using standard photolithographic technology) so that circular opening 5 is formed, centered directly above photodiode 2. The diameter of 5 is between about 0.2 and 1 microns and may be varied depending on the desired depth of focus of the microlens.

The next step in the process is to oxidize polysilicon layer 8 wherever it is not protected by the silicon nitride 9. The conditions under which oxidation is performed are essentially the same as the standard Local Oxidation Of Silicon (LOCOS) method, namely heating at a pressure of about one atmosphere for between about 2-4 hours at a temperature between about 850 and 950 C.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the LOCOS oxide 31 grows both into and away from the the polysilicon surface in approximately equal amounts (more precisely, about 55% above and about 45% below the surface). It also penetrates beneath the silicon nitride mask (now designated 19) causing it to be raised up at its edges. Because of this mode of growth, the oxide body 31 is approximately lenticular, or lens shaped (provided the diameter of opening 5 is within the limits that we have specified). The oxidation process is allowed to continue long enough for oxide body 31 to just make contact with oxide layer 7.

Once the microlens has been formed, the silicon nitride layer 19 is removed, following which all polysilicon, other than the small amount 41 that lies directly beneath the lens, is removed using a dry (reactive ion) etch consisting of a mixture of chlorine and hydrogen bromide, at a power level between about 270 and 325 watts (with 300 watts being preferred), at a pressure between about 300 and 400 mtorr (with 350 mtorr being preferred), for between about 25 to 35 seconds (with 31 seconds being optimum for 1,500 Angstroms of polysilicon). The appearance of the structure at this stage is illustrated in FIG. 4.

Removal of the remaining polysilicon 41 is then effected using a wet etch composed of hydrogen fluoride:nitric acid:water in the proportions 1:50:20 followed by a rinse in deionized water, giving the completed structure the appearance illustrated in FIG. 5. Note the appearance of biconvex lens 51 which is attached to oxide layer 7 over a small area at its base.

The optical behavior of microlens 51 is illustrated in FIG. 6 which shows incoming light rays 61 being brought to a focus by microlens 51. In this example, the focal point for rays 61 will be close to the boundary between photodiode 2 and silicon substrate 1, but this could be readily adjusted (if need be) by changing the thickness of layer 7.

In a second embodiment of the present invention, an additional step of coating the structure with a layer of spin on glass (SOG) 71 is added to the process. The thickness of the SOG is carefully controlled so that, after drying and firing, its thickness is equal to half the thickness of the biconvex lens 51. Provided the refractive indices of the SOG layer and that of the microlens 51 are within about 90% of one another, the amount of reflection and refraction that takes place at the SOG to silicon oxide interface is negligible and the resulting assemblage acts as a plano-convex lens. To meet these conditions we have found the silicate based SOGs and the siloxane based SOGs to be suitable.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5118924 *Oct 1, 1990Jun 2, 1992Eastman Kodak CompanyStatic control overlayers on opto-electronic devices
US5574293 *Mar 22, 1994Nov 12, 1996Tdk Corp.Solid state imaging device using disilane
US5871653 *Feb 20, 1997Feb 16, 1999Advanced Materials Engineering Research, Inc.Methods of manufacturing micro-lens array substrates for implementation in flat panel display
Non-Patent Citations
Reference
1Deguchi et al. "Microlens Design Using Simulation Program For CCD Image Sensor" IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics, vol. 38, No. 3, Aug. 1992, p583-589.
2 *Deguchi et al. Microlens Design Using Simulation Program For CCD Image Sensor IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics, vol. 38, No. 3, Aug. 1992, p583 589.
3Furukawa et al, "A 1/3 inch 38 OK pixil IT CCD image sensor", IEEE Trans on Consumer Electronics, vol. 38, No. 3, Aug. 1992, p595,600.
4 *Furukawa et al, A 1/3 inch 38 OK pixil IT CCD image sensor , IEEE Trans on Consumer Electronics, vol. 38, No. 3, Aug. 1992, p595,600.
5Sakakibara et al, "A1format 1.5M pixel IT-CCD image sensor for a HDTV camera system" IEEE Trans on Consumer Electronics, vol. 37, No. 3, Aug. 1991, p. 487-493.
6 *Sakakibara et al, A1format 1.5M pixel IT CCD image sensor for a HDTV camera system IEEE Trans on Consumer Electronics, vol. 37, No. 3, Aug. 1991, p. 487 493.
7Sano et al, "Submicron Spaced Lens Array Process Technology For A High Photosensitivity CCD Image Sensor", IEDM, 1990, p283-6.
8 *Sano et al, Submicron Spaced Lens Array Process Technology For A High Photosensitivity CCD Image Sensor , IEDM, 1990, p283 6.
9Tsukamato et al, "High Sensitivity Pixel Technology for a 1/4 inch PAL 43 OK pixel IT-CCD", pub 1996 Custom IC Conf. p39-40.
10 *Tsukamato et al, High Sensitivity Pixel Technology for a 1/4 inch PAL 43 OK pixel IT CCD , pub 1996 Custom IC Conf. p39 40.
Referenced by
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US6122109 *Apr 15, 1999Sep 19, 2000The University Of New MexicoNon-planar micro-optical structures
US6365237Jul 24, 2000Apr 2, 2002University Of New MexicoMethod of making non-planar micro-optical structures
US6531266Mar 16, 2001Mar 11, 2003Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing CompanyElement shape, of an image sensor device, without damage to an underlying spacer layer, or to underlying color filter elements, has been developed. The non-reflowed, microlens element shape, if defective and needing rework, is first
US6587147 *Aug 22, 2000Jul 1, 2003Intel CorporationMicrolens array
US6656760Mar 9, 2001Dec 2, 2003Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.Solid state imaging sensor in a submicron technology and method of manufacturing and use of a solid state imaging sensor
US6673252Dec 29, 2000Jan 6, 2004Korea Advanced Institute Of Science And TechnologyMethod of fabricating a refractive silicon microlens
US6728289Jul 24, 2000Apr 27, 2004Science & Technology Corporation @ University Of New MexicoNon-planar micro-optical structures
US6821810Aug 7, 2000Nov 23, 2004Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing CompanyHigh transmittance overcoat for optimization of long focal length microlens arrays in semiconductor color imagers
US6916680 *Nov 25, 2003Jul 12, 2005Dongbuanam Semiconductor Inc.Method for fabricating image sensor
US6969899Dec 8, 2003Nov 29, 2005Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.Image sensor with light guides
US6979588Dec 16, 2003Dec 27, 2005Hynix Semiconductor Inc.Method for manufacturing CMOS image sensor having microlens therein with high photosensitivity
US7061028Mar 12, 2003Jun 13, 2006Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Co., Ltd.Image sensor device and method to form image sensor device
US7196388 *May 27, 2005Mar 27, 2007Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd.Microlens designs for CMOS image sensors
US7326588Sep 20, 2005Feb 5, 2008Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.Image sensor with light guides
US7330564Jan 11, 2007Feb 12, 2008Digimarc CorporationDigital watermarking apparatus and methods
US7332368Nov 22, 2005Feb 19, 2008Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.Light guide for image sensor
US7372497Apr 28, 2004May 13, 2008Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing CompanyEffective method to improve sub-micron color filter sensitivity
US7545952Oct 23, 2007Jun 9, 2009Digimarc CorporationImage or video display devices
US7616777Feb 7, 2007Nov 10, 2009Digimarc CorporationDigital watermarking methods, systems and apparatus
US7670867 *Oct 3, 2005Mar 2, 2010Chang-Young JeongMethod for manufacturing CMOS image sensor having microlens therein with high photosensitivity
US7932546Oct 27, 2009Apr 26, 2011Crosstek Capital, LLCImage sensor having microlenses and high photosensitivity
US8023691Feb 7, 2007Sep 20, 2011Digimarc CorporationMethods involving maps, imagery, video and steganography
US8187905 *Aug 20, 2010May 29, 2012Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Method of forming a microlens and a method for manufacturing an image sensor
US8457346Feb 3, 2005Jun 4, 2013Digimarc CorporationDigital watermarking image signals on-chip
US8508009 *Apr 26, 2010Aug 13, 2013Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Microlens and an image sensor including a microlens
US8565473Sep 22, 2009Oct 22, 2013Digimarc CorporationNoise influenced watermarking methods and apparatus
Classifications
U.S. Classification430/321, 216/2, 430/313, 216/26
International ClassificationG02B3/00
Cooperative ClassificationG02B3/0056, G02B3/0012
European ClassificationG02B3/00A1
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 18, 2011FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 12
May 18, 2007FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Jun 10, 2003FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Jun 3, 1998ASAssignment
Owner name: TAIWAN SEMICONDUCTOR MANUFACTURING COMPANY, TAIWAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HUANG, JI-CHUNG;SHEU, YEA-DEAN;HSU, CHUNG-EN;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:009217/0398
Effective date: 19980409